Money yields power, but not equality, for Dominican migrant women – UN study

6 September 2006 –

Dominican Republic women who migrated abroad to earn more money were empowered by their new roles as household breadwinners and decision-makers but were still expected to conform to traditional gender roles, according to a study released today by the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

Dozens of women who migrated from the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic to Madrid, Spain, were interviewed for the report, “Gender, remittances and development: The case of women migrants from Vicente Noble, Dominican Republic,” which was carried out with financial support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The women said they regularly sent their families between one quarter and one third of their monthly earnings, making it the primary source of household income in most of the cases. The remittances gave women greater autonomy and control over family matters, the study found.

“Women acquire greater decision-making power, for example, in the use of economic resources: which school the children will attend, who migrates, if a house will be built or the money invested in a business, how much money will go for the purchase of food, etcetera,” said Denise Paiewonsky, an INSTRAW researcher.

Despite the women’s decision to migrate and become breadwinners, there was no significant shift in gender ideology, the study found.

“The man does not take on the household tasks such as social reproduction, child care or household management,” said Ms. Paiewonsky. “This traditionally feminine role is passed on to another woman, usually her mother or sister.”

As in many other developing countries, the financial volume of remittances sent to the Dominican Republic has quadrupled in the past ten years and now represents 13 per cent of its Gross National Product (GNP), or four times the amount of direct foreign investment.

While the remittances contributed to the alleviation of poverty, the study found that their potential for local development remained limited. Most of the small businesses that women launched upon their return showed very low levels of productivity and profitability, due to the lack of access to credit and technical training programmes.

“Only by examining the entire migration process from a gender perspective can we draft pertinent initiatives aimed at optimizing the benefits of remittances for development and reducing their negative impact,” said INSTRAW Social Affairs Officer Carolina Taborga.

The study comes on the eve of the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development that will take place on 14-15 September at UN headquarters in New York.

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